LIMA: An inferno swept through a bus at an illegal transport terminal in Lima, killing 17 people trapped inside in one of Peru’s worst fire disasters in over a decade, the state prosecutor’s office said Monday.
Most of the victims were trapped on the upper deck of the interprovincial bus in Lima as it prepared to depart the controversial Fiori bus terminal, fire chief Mario Casaretto said.
“Everyone became trapped in the stairwell leading to the first level when they wanted to get down from the upper level,” Casaretto said.
Onlookers described scenes of panic and cries of terror.
Much of the vehicle was reduced to a skeleton and the corpses of some victims could still be seen in the seats. Others asphyxiated on the stairway connecting the upper and lower levels.
The tragedy reflected the chaos of Peru’s public transport system, particularly in the capital of 10 million people where authorities are overwhelmed by transport problems.
Initial reports said an electrical fault at the rear of the bus triggered the blaze just after 7:30 pm (0030 GMT).
Initially the fire department said at least 20 people had perished in the fire, but the figure was revised downwards after firefighters had combed through the burnt-out bus.
“At 4:00 am local time the team of prosecutors and six doctors concluded the removal of 17 bodies,” the prosecutor’s office said on Twitter.
Among the dead were four children. Thirteen adults — five women and eight men — also died.
Authorities did not say how many people were on board.
One unidentified man, broken by grief, told local television that he had lost six family members including his wife, children and grandchildren.
A photographer witnessed one woman weeping, her face buried in her hands, while paramedics checked her.
Lima’s Mayor Jorge Munoz visited the injured in hospital and announced an investigation to punish those responsible.